Author: Tamara Trajkovski
Dražen Malbašić is a 24-year-old student of Economy from Mostar. Since the sixth grade, when he wasn’t even 13 years old, he started travelling. So far, he’s visited USA twice, England and Wales 5 times, Albania 3 times, Slovenia 2 times, Italy 4 times, and has traveled once to Portugal, France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Serbia, Romania and Norway… and he doesn’t plan on stopping at that.
His first journey was to Portugal. Since he pursued tennis, he got an opportunity to go to a two-week practice there when he was twelve. It was his first airplane flight, too. It was a good experience because a famous Croatian singer, Giuliano, was on the same plane. All the children asked for his autograph.
In 2005 he visited America for the first time in order to participate in the Youth Leadership training. His was chosen among 900 applications, which gave him an opportunity to go to the USA with other 14 students from Bosnia and Herzegovina and spend a month there.
They were in Washington for a week. They visited many places that were not open for tourists because their leader was a congressman in charge of Yugoslavia in the past and he spoke Serbo-Croatian. They visited the Capitol Dome where he was able to see the copy of the Declaration of Independence. He was placed in a very religious Baptist family whose members would hold hands and pray together before every meal. They were Republicans and you could see pictures and magnets of George Bush all over the house.
”Americans laugh all the time and shop assistants are pretty boring and won’t let you shop around peacefully”, he said. No matter what the prejudices about Americans are, they are very pleasant and different from Europeans. ”They are friendly and I’m still in touch with them – via Facebook, of course.”
It was during this travel that he started buying cups and he became a sort of a cup-addict as he does not come from a journey without one. His first cup is from Washington. ”As I was travelling more and more, I wasn’t able to buy gifts every time. I only brought cups from my journeys. In Bristol, England, there wasn’t a single cup to buy, which I couldn’t believe as it is a large city. I asked my friends to look for them, too, but the quest wasn’t successful. On the way home, they got a plain white cup and wrote Bristol City on it with a marker, which was a great gesture. Now it stands equally with all my other cups. I always buy a cup, no matter where I go or if I had been there before. The most expensive one cost € 10 and the cheapest one € 2. I’m not stingy when it comes to them.”
After visiting America, he became the member of an NGO called Builders of Peace. That gave him a lot of opportunities to participate in different trainings and seminars. Since he had a Croatian passport, which meant the no-visa regime, it was never a problem to him to go to a seminar he had found out about a week before.
What annoys him the most in his journeys is that foreigners always say Bosnia and never mention Herzegovina. When he reminds them of Herzegovina, they come up with Slovenia and an even bigger mess arises. ”I don’t like to tell people where I’m from at first, as they start talking about the war and our economy right away.”
Not every experience he had was nice. When he visited London, he got mugged in a club. ‘Luckily’, they only took his wallet, although both his camera and his passport were in the same pocket. ”I only discovered it after I had left the club and looked for my bus ticket. I was left with 5 pounds in another pocket and I didn’t have money to return home. Other participants of the seminar collected and lent me some money to be able to go home.”
”I also had a strange situation in Belgrade. I was there during the biggest protests concerning the independence of Kosovo. I stayed at a motel where I met an American and a Russian. During the tour across the city we bumped into the protests – it was the day when Croatia acknowledged Kosovo. The American and I were red-faced, while the Russian walked beside us proudly. That journey left a bad taste in my mouth and that is why I intend to go there again.”
He’s never been prejudiced towards any people. ”When I left for Albania, I hoped that Albanians would be similar to Slavs. We didn’t learn a lot about them at school and I didn’t know what to expect. They were specific in everything, their language, physiognomy. During my first visit, I was thrilled; I met great people because of who I went back again twice. Tirana is a very joyous city and each building is painted differently. Opinions of my Albanian friends are divided; some think that it’s beautiful just like I do, while others think it’s kitschy. I like the Albanian night life, there is no folk music, mostly foreign, and the Albanian music is always pop or rock. Albanians as people are friendly, I once went out with 7 of them, only two of who didn’t know English, but they tried hard and didn’t say a word in Albanian just to make me feel comfortable.”
When I asked whether he embarrassed himself anywhere, he said that it had happened in Poland. He was in Auschwitz in a souvenir shop, which wasn’t a common souvenir shop, it only had books on World war Two and he tried to buy a cup for his collection. ”Only after I had got home did I realize how wrong it was to ask that. The visit was very moving. No one remains the same after such an experience.”
Having in mind that he travels a lot, I found it weird that he didn’t go anywhere else to study, so that was my next question. ”It’s nice to get away for two weeks, but it takes courage to go somewhere for three years, to study and push your average grade higher for the scholarship. I was afraid of the pressure, I was young and I always thought about the possible problems. I’m now sure I’ll go somewhere else to pursue my doctoral degree. I find it better this way – I save money, travel, apply for a seminar. It’s hard when you have to pay for everything yourself but the expenses are mostly paid, at least 70% of them. I always try to save more money than necessary so that I could stay in the capital for a few more days and see everything I’m interested in.
When asked what nation he preferred and where he’d like to go next, he said: ”Spanish people are the most fascinating to me. They are cheery and on seminars I’m always with them. During the Peace Fest in England, they were the anti-racism march leaders as they were the loudest ones. I’ve never been to Spain, and it’s definitely one of my following destinations.”
”This year I went to Norway to visit friends I had met before. I had saved for a year for my travel and allowance costs. Everything is much more expensive there. I’ve never been to a place that was more affordable than Bosnia and Herzegovina. I like countries that have a stable, strong currency, like euro, mark, dollars or pounds, unlike the weaker ones – you have a pocket full of money that has hardly any worth. It’s easy to trick yourself like that and buy something expensive. Only the clothes are cheaper in America, everything else is thrice the price compared to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
”I save money throughout the year for my travels and I am a modest person – these travels are my only luxury (as other people call them), which I try to afford myself. Before, I used to save up money so that I could print the photos I had taken as there were no digital cameras at that time. I must admit that I don’t like it nowadays that I don’t have my photos printed.
I like to travel; it’s a manner of relaxation for me as I don’t like to be in the same spot for a long time. When I go home, it’s usually the Zagreb-Mostar bus line I use. The happiest moment is always when I reach the part of the road called Žovnica, right above Mostar, and see my town waking up early in the morning, my heart swells.”
My message to the readers would be: buy fewer clothes, save and travel light, keep in touch with people. When you plan well, it’s easy to find accommodation, provide food and have a good time in exchange for a little money. It’s a means of informal emancipation, of changing your surroundings and realizing that you’re not the center of the world – there are other people and other places. Travelling is fortune!”
This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.